Fireworks safety makes holiday sparkle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2000

James Gibbons knows about fireworks safety.

He and his wife Larcy have owned U. S. A. Fireworks on Aztec Road near Highway 31 for almost three years. During that time, they have developed a respect for what they sell and ask that others take the same precautions as well, especially in dealing with children.

"Never let kids light them," Gibbons said, motioning toward all the fireworks he has on display. "If kids are outside around fireworks, always make sure they are well-supervised by adults."

To continue to help keep children safe, Gibbons said he does not sell to anyone under 16 years of age without an adult present at the time of purchase.

However, with this year's dry weather conditions continuing to plague the state, keeping children safe around fireworks might not be the only important issue. Wildfires could also become a problem during this year's Fourth of July festivities.

So far in the year 2000 in Butler County, there have been 85 wildfires that have burned 492 acres.

To stop the number of fires in the country from increasing, the Alabama Forestry Commission and the State Fire Marshall are urging citizens to take extra precautions during their Fourth of July celebration.

It may only take a spark to ignite the dry leaves, twigs and pine straw on the forest floor.

"We have a potential for increased forest fires during the holiday because of the drought we've been in," State Forester Timothy C. Boyce said. "The recent rainfalls weren't enough to bring us out of the drought situation.

State Fire Marshall John S. Robison agrees. "Just a little extra caution should prevent a catastrophe," he said. "Many areas, especially in south Alabama, are still extremely vulnerable to wildfires. We want people to enjoy a safe Fourth of July holiday."

Residents can take several precautions to prevent starting a wildfire from fireworks.

First, shoot fireworks in a cleared area where there is little grass or weeds, preferably on bare dirt or over water.

Second, have a water hose available to wet down areas. Douse used fireworks in a bucket of water. If you are away from a water source, have a shovel or rake available to smother a fire with dirt.

Third, if smoking fireworks debris is discovered, soak it in water or bury it in dirt.

Fourth, be aware of the surroundings and watch where fireworks are landing. There is less control over fireworks such as rockets than over those that don't travel away from the immediate area.

Last, stay in the area an extra half hour to make sure no fires were ignited. If a fire that is beyond control does get started, call 911 and report it immediately.

"These are just common sense things we're asking people to do," Boyce said. "It's their life and property that we want to protect."